On Sunday, three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act expired after the Senate failed to pass a temporary extension for them. The law itself is of limited importance to the US Politics course, except maybe as a challenge to the role of the President as Commander-in-Chief, and even this is tenuous.
It is crucial however in a myriad of other ways. Firstly, an alternative to these provisions, the House-sponsored USA Freedom Act, overcame a filibuster in a 77-17 vote, showing some level of bipartisanship. However the reason behind this was that with Rand Paul blocking the extension of the PATRIOT Act provisions, his own party voted against him to at least get the Freedom Act through, even though the Republicans don’t want it. This is a good example therefore of some level of disunity within the party that could be linked to just how broad the two main parties in America have become. See here for more on this – http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/gop-senators-tear-into-paul-118475.html
This link (http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/patriot-act-meltdown-mitch-mcconnell-rand-paul-bond-118522.html) goes on to explain a fabulous example however – the powers, or not, or the leadership in the Senate. The leadership in the Senate is weakened by it’s operating principle of unanimous consent. However this story really goes on to show just how little the Majority Leader can do in the face of someone like Rand Paul, who is using the Senate as a grandstand for his own political ambitions to be President. However, that is definitely not to say that he has no power:
“As the Senate is now moving to approve a House-passed bill, Paul has sought to drag out the process this week. But McConnell is strictly enforcing Senate rules to keep the schedule as tight as possible. GOP leaders have put out the word to the rank and file not to give Paul any more time to debate. And Republican senators said in interviews they will be happy to comply with that order, allowing the Senate to wrap up the bill on Tuesday afternoon over Paul’s objections.”
Finally, a note about C-SPAN…the Senate proceedings are televised and we often discuss the importance of this as a method to keep in touch with constituents or making a name for yourself. However, in his speech on Sunday night, you can clearly see the importance of C-SPAN. Whilst chairs behind him were empty, Rand Paul spoke in a manner that seemed less about convincing those around him in the Senate, and more to do with the fact he knew it would be picked up by national media; he spoke like a man running as for presidential candidacy and appealing for voters…“Are we going to so blythly give up our freedom? Are we so blythly go along and just say ‘take it’? Well, I’m not going to take it anymore. I don’t think the American people are going to take it anymore…”
Lots of evidence in this story…get reading!